Nairobi — Kenya's limping tourism industry witnessed a boost Wednesday with the arrival of the first Turkish Airlines aircraft to signal the start of direct flights between Kenya and Turkey.
With 150 tourists on board, the Turkish Airlines aircraft made a maiden landing in Mombasa stirring optimism that the suffering tourism sector would come back to life. Turkey is one of the major source markets of the Kenyan tourism industry accounting for an estimated 13 per cent of total arrivals.
Kenyan tourism is under attack from various sectors most of them violence propelled. Apart from the lurking monster of Al-Shabaab driven terrorism, there has been an upsurge of violence among communities residing at the Coast which is the main tourism spot in Kenya. The violence has forced government military intervention, a situation that has seen dwindling arrivals coupled with cancellations in hotel bookings and flights.
Just to bring the dwindling tourism figures in Kenya into focus, the number of arrivals fell a whole 22 per cent in the first eight months of the year compared to the previous year.
Direct flights between Istanbul and Mombasa are therefore expected to hugely boost arrival numbers from various destinations within Europe.
In the past, the region has had to rely on commercial chartered aircrafts which apart from being too expensive for tourists have the tendency of suspending flights during the low seasons of between May and July.
This situation has led to a serious under-utilization of the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, a situation that the Kenya Airports Authority Chairman Mr Mutuma Mugambi says will change drastically.
"We expect the launch of the direct flights between Mombasa and Istanbul to increase the traffic at this facility which will mean increased business for us," said Mr. Mugambi.